The financial crisis and economic downturn are likely to put upward pressure on government debt. The trouble is, according to OECD in Figures 2008, public debt (general government debt, which includes central and local government) had already risen quite sharply in the OECD as a whole since 1987, from 59% of GDP to 75% in 2007. Two decades ago, Belgium had the highest public debt, but today that position is filled by Japan, whose debt rose from below 60% to 170% of GDP. Italy’s debt has also shot above 100% of GDP in the past 20 years.
©OECD Observer No 270/271 December 2008-January 2009
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